The last few days, I’ve been watching the debate over Debo Adegbile’s nomination as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. I’m glad I waited to write something about it, because our buddy, John Bruhns, an Iraq veteran who used to protest the war but grew out of that to be a good conservative and an advocate for national security, sent us this piece he wrote, since he was pretty sure that his editors at the Huffington Post wouldn’t touch it.
Over the past few days, the nomination of Debo Adegbile to a powerful post in the Department of Justice – assistant attorney general for the civil rights division – has been gaining a groundswell of support from civil rights advocates, union leaders, politicians, and even a top corporate executive. On the face of it, the popularity of this choice makes sense: the 12-year veteran of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund appears to check every box for leading an office that enforces anti-discrimination laws, having argued twice in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in cases about voting rights. Born to an Irish mother and Nigerian father, Adegbile, who grew up poor in New York City, seems to be every progressive’s dream. He was even a child actor on “Sesame Street.”
But there is one huge factor that disqualifies him for the job: decades after Mumiu Abu-Jamal was tried and convicted of the heinous murder of a police officer on the streets of Philadelphia, Adegbile stepped in and took up his cause, finding a legal technicality to get his death sentence commuted to life in prison.
According to The Hill:
Abu Jamal was sentenced to death, but appeals of the sentencing kept his case in the courts for much of the next three decades.
In 2011, Abu Jamal avoided the death penalty, after the courts ordered that he should be resentenced after flaws during his original 1982 trial. Prosecutors then announced they would no longer seek the death penalty against him.
The NAACP legal defense fund represented Abu Jamal during the resentencing. From 2001-2013, Adegbile held various leadership roles in the fund.
Showing poor judgment at best, Adegbile jumped on the bandwagon of Hollywood actors, writers, news authors and commentators who hold up the radical Black Panther supporter as some kind of innocent martyr. This cold-blooded murderer shot the young police officer Daniel Faulkner at close range, including once in the face from 12-inches away. He was later overheard saying, “I shot the mother_cker and I hope he dies.” The evidence of his guilt was overwhelming. And yet this brutal execution of Faulkner has somehow turned Abu-Jamal into an international cause celebre. Stephen Vittoria’s documentary,
“continues the glorification of this unrepentant cop killer as some sort of icon for civil rights.
For those of us who grew up in Philadelphia, this is an intimate murder case. It’s impossible not to have a strong opinion about what happened when this young officer was gunned down on our streets. As the case went to trial and more facts came to light, we were sickened by what we learned: that Abu-Jamal intentionally ambushed Daniel Faulkner. The evidence makes it glaringly obvious that Abu-Jamal had his brother, Billy Cook, drive the wrong way up a street to bait the officer into stopping him for a traffic violation. Abu-Jamal was close by, gun in hand, and it’s no coincidence that he happened to be on the same street at the same time. As Faulkner attempted to arrest Cook, Abu-Jamal came running, and first shot the officer in the back.
In Philadelphia, this is seen as a straightforward murder case with layers upon layers of proof that Abu-Jamal is guilty. The evidence is transparently presented in Tigre Hill’s documentary,
Yet the further one travels outside the City of Brotherly Love, the more conspiracy theories and misinformation distort the facts, turning Abu-Jamal into a modern-day human rights leader and vilifying the fallen officer by falsely accusing him of beating up Abu-Jamal’s brother, deeply insulting his family, and police officers everywhere. For decades, the case has been played out again and again, with repeated appeals for a retrial being turned down. It’s quite fascinating that Abu-Jamal’s own brother wouldn’t testify on his behalf.
After his nomination, Adegbile called Faulkner’s death a “tremendous loss,” saying he never meant to insult Daniel Faulkner’s widow and family by representing his killer, maintaining that his involvement in the case was merely “about the legal process.” But that’s completely disingenuous. He wasn’t just some court-appointed lawyer assigned to the case. Decades after the fact, he volunteered hundreds of hours of his services for free as part of the NAACP’s active campaign on Abu-Jamal’s behalf. His close involvement shows he had an agenda – to do all he could to somehow exonerate this false hero.
So when Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police described Adegbile’s nomination as “a thumb in the eye of our nation’s law enforcement officers,” he was absolutely right.
It’s not about the fact that Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was overturned. What bothers me is that, out of all the cases for which Adegbile could have volunteered his services, with hundreds of black men sitting on death row who may well be deserving of Adegbile’s legal aid, he chose this guy. What does that really say about his values and sense of fairness?
There are many horrors of racism, but this case has nothing to do with that. In fact, using race to justify such a heinous crime is both cynical and hurtful to those genuinely innocent people who can’t get a break. It is a classic case of demagoguery based on race-baiting and ignorance that’s being repeated across the nation. Those who defend Abu-Jamal represent the worst of moral relativism, allowing a heartless thug to hide behind the dignity of the civil rights movement and undermining the hard work and sacrifice of all those who came before him.
Just to be clear, this was written by John Bruhns.